U.S., EUROPEAN TEST RESULTS DEFY STANDARD MODEL IN PHYSICS
Preliminary results from two experiments suggest something could be wrong with the basic way physicists think the universe works, a prospect that has the field of particle physics both baffled and thrilled, Seth Borenstein reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Tiny particles called muons aren’t quite doing what is expected of them in two different long-running experiments in the United States and Europe. The confounding results — if proven right — reveal major problems with the rulebook physicists use to describe and understand how the universe works at the subatomic level.
“We think we might be swimming in a sea of background particles all the time that just haven’t been directly discovered,” Fermilab experiment co-chief scientist Chris Polly said in a press conference.
“There might be monsters we haven’t yet imagined that are emerging from the vacuum interacting with our muons and this gives us a window into seeing them.”
The rulebook, called the Standard Model, was developed about 50 years ago. Experiments performed over decades affirmed over and again that its descriptions of the particles and the forces that make up and govern the universe were pretty much on the mark.
Until now. The Standard Model predicts that these beauty quark crashes should result in equal numbers of electrons and muons. It’s sort of like flipping a coin 1,000 times and getting about equal numbers of heads and tails, said Large Hadron Collider beauty experiment chief Chris Parkes. But that’s not what happened.
Researchers pored over the data from several years and a few thousand crashes and found a 15% difference, with significantly more electrons than muons, said experiment researcher Sheldon Stone of Syracuse University. Neither experiment is being called an official discovery yet because there is still a tiny chance that the results are statistical quirks.
Running the experiments more times — planned in both cases — could, in a year or two, reach the incredibly stringent statistical requirements for physics to hail it as a discovery, researchers said. If the results do hold, they would upend “every other calculation made” in the world of particle physics, Kaplan said.